Rhinelander, northwoods prepare for tourists - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Rhinelander, northwoods prepare for tourists

RHINELANDER (WAOW) -- Tourism is big business in north central Wisconsin.

With winter in the rearview mirror, the northwoods is gearing up for another successful season.

"We welcome people all the time," said Terri Krueger of Rhinelander. "We like to see tourists. It's always nice to see different people. We get isolated in the winter. We like to get out and talk and be social with other people."

Lori Hext, the co-owner of Hext Theatre in Rhinelander, felt similarly.

"We get to meet different people from all over the place," she said.

Rhinelander leaders say tourism is what the northwoods does best.

"Tourism season is a historical season in the northwoods," said Dana DeMet, the executive director of Rhinelander's Chamber of Commerce. "It's our bread and butter season."

"Tourism is a major focus and a major industry in our area," said Blaine Oborn, Rhinelander's city administrator.

They say the region has plenty to offer.

"With the woods and the lakes and the rivers around us, there's lots of outdoor offerings that people can come and do and explore nature around them," DeMet said.

Rhinelander officials are expecting a successful season.

"Going into the spring now here and the warm weather where we can be outside and so we're going to have a lot of tourists coming and we'll get more busier," Oborn said.

According to a study sponsored by the city of Rhinelander, visitors to Vilas and Oneida counties spent more than $350 million in 2012.

"With how the economy is turning around a little bit, we're seeing some increased spending by people so I would expect that we're going to see a greater number of road travelers coming into the area for this summer versus what we may have seen over the last five years," said DeMet.

The Hext Theatre has already had some out-of-town visitors.

"Over spring break, we had a few people from Florida because they wanted to get away from Florida during spring break," Hext said.

Northwoods leaders say this year they're following a state-led initiative called "Camp Wisconsin." The idea is to make tourists feel like they're at a summer camp through canoeing, kayaking, grilling, and other outdoor activities.
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